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The Moab Story is part 1 of a 3 part, 6 hour film tracing the life of the
eponymous Tulse Luper and, for reasons not yet clear, the history of
(atomic number 92 - this is important so pay attention at the
Greenaway continues to evolve his directorial style, overlapping images and sounds, embedding windows within windows, mixing media. The results are often confusing, sometimes stunning, never boring.
I wondered if Greenaway was hinting that this was in some sense an autobiographical piece. Tulse Luper is cited as the author of 'The Belly of an Architect' and in a list of his lost works appears 'The Falls', both earlier films by Greenaway.
Of course it might just be the director playing games. A clip from 'A Zed and Two Noughts' is used at one point, and there is a character named 'Cissie Colpits', the name of the three women in 'Drowning by Numbers'. I suspect there might well have been many more references to earlier films in there.
This is closer in style to 'Properos Books' or 'A TV Dante' than some of his earlier works such as 'The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover'. Narrative flow has been sacrificed in part for creating a cinematic work of art. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion though, when the result is a film like this. Sit back and let the experience wash over you.
The Moab Story is a fascinating cinematic experiment - it really is an
encyclopedic CD-ROM-like film - it reminded me of The Pillow Book and A
TV Dante in its presentation. The screen is predominantly busy with
informative movement. I watched the film on DVD and the text on screen
is small, but I was constantly zooming in on the picture to read it so
it wasn't a problem. But the viewing would be enhanced watching it on
as large a screen as possible, but having said that it is appropriate
for DVD with its interactivity. The project as a whole begs for
interactivity with the individual user.
The film begins with showing us actors auditioning for roles, which is also used later. Tulse is a young boy with his friend Martino Knockavelli in the back yard of his house in Newport, Wales. A red brick wall collapses on Tulse and then we progress through history, with war footage in the background. Tulse travels to Moab where he is abused and jailed, and then later travels to Antwerp and faces the sinister Red Fox fascists. Throughout the film a small box with the head of a talking expert inside appears (like A TV Dante) describing the background of what is happening. Characters are noted on screen with name and number when they appear. It was fun reading all of Luper's Lost Films that scrolled down the screen, as well as seeing the other suitcases (suitcases 1 - 21 are featured in this film). It was good to see former Greenaway films - Vertical Features Remake, Water Wrackets, A Zed & Two Noughts, and The Belly of an Architect - referenced and appear. Greenaway is really experimenting here with image and sound, using repetitive sound at times giving an echoing effect. He plays with connecting numbers to draw shapes on screen when Percy strikes Tulse. Sometimes the screenplay is shown on screen after the characters have said it. The cinematography by Reinier Van Brummelen is good. The music by Borut Krzisnik is superb and feels appropriate. In the acting stakes Caroline Dhavernas is the stand out, and J.J. Feild does a capable job as Tulse. It's a film that (like all Greenaway films) needs to be watched several times. I look forward to seeing Vaux to the Sea.
I saw this film last night at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC.
Antwerp was also shown, I believe. Peter Greenaway was there, presented
comments before the film, between the films, and answered questions after
the film. It started about 8PM, and when I left around 1AM, Greenaway was
still answering questions. The film was shown in high definition,
the Hirshhorn projection system sometimes had trouble keeping it in focus.
Antwerp repeated about twenty-five minutes of the end of Moab.
I won't attempt to describe much of the plot of Greenaway's mad project, such as I saw it, other than to say it traces the life of the title character through the two world wars of the twentieth century. If it is ever completed, one would expect there to be ninety-two "suitcases", hyperlinks as it were, to elements of Tulse Luper's life; one would expect there to be ninety-two common archetypical objects representing human existence; and one would expect there to be ninety-two characters in the movie, many of whom are introduced in split screen "auditions", which Greenaway imagined are analogous to parallel worlds. However, other than the number of times Tulse is physically assaulted, I can't recall any of the numbers going beyond thirty, so clearly there is a long way to go before the film can ever be called completed.
Greenaway described his visual metaphor as capturing elements of toolkits from multimedia computer graphics. The influence of a high bandwidth internet experience is also present. There was something analogous to a magnifier icon for creating a box around an element of a scene to be highlighted. There were panels of foreground videos playing over a background video reminiscent of a Windows Media Player or a Real Player. And there was one scene that split and adjusted the frame of the movie horizontally, like something I'd seen editing a Word document. Of course, all of these elements are subtly redefined to be nonobvious, and graphically balanced and symmetric. In one of the most visually impressive sequences in the film, the camera moves slowly from left to right, and then back, over a row of typists, each of whom has a bare light bulb above her head, and between each of them there is a semi-transparent display of rapidly changing document pages as might be scanned from a database.
Thematically, the film captures the best elements of Greenway. He said he expected Tulse Luper to be his magna opus, and the way he described the infinitely recursive structure of the story, it is likely to be an unfinished symphony. The numbers from Drowning by Numbers are here. The brutality of The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover is, too. The film is expressly referential to Greenaway's earlier works, and he suggests that Tulse Luper is his alter ego.
Greenaway makes much of the architectural elements of the frame -- the Cartesian grid, lots of horizontal and vertical lines, vanishing perspectives, conic shadows of divergent illumination from a point source -- but for me what makes Greenaway Greenaway is brutality for an underlying theme, and lots of artfully naked, sexually expressive people. The visual elements could certainly exist without the rawness, but his films would not be as powerful without it. One scene clearly showed the results of a castration, and many others involved some sort of sexual domination. Greenaway said he is an atheist; I wondered, is he also a practitioner of sexual dominance in his personal life, or is he just doing this to be interesting? Between films, Greenaway sounded almost apologetic in explaining it was about totalitarianism and anti-semitism, but it's problematic for a Britisher in our age of anti-Americanism to present so many fascist characters uttering slurs against the Jews. It's sort of like Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice talking about the Holocaust. Does repeating blood libels, like the Jews supposedly being responsible for communism, somehow perpetuate the injury? Early in the film, a character repeats a mantra to "destroy the evil" as a way presumably to end war, but then later another suggests this sounds like too much of a violent thing to do; one wonders, which is it?
This was certainly the most powerful movie experience I had in 2003, although admittedly I didn't see very many good movies this year. And the scale of Tulse Luper is such that I'm sure it will be one of Greenaway's very best, even if it never achieves a state of completion. It helps vastly of course to see it in the theater and in high definition. While Greenaway regretted the French subtitles, as the version we saw was shown at Cannes, I actually found they added another dimension to the film: not only did they help me catch what the characters were saying when they spoke too fast to hear, but the nuances of French vis-a-via English were enlightening.
This film is the nth Wonder of the World. It's just so unashamedly full of details, pictures in pictures, special effects, not so special effects, special and unspecial characters, kids, lists of lists, colors, sets, music that puts other, more franchise-y trilogies such as Matrix and Lord of the Rings to shame, plot, plot, plot, perspectives and fiery dialogue about America, Europe, war, sex, friendship, family, torture, dentistry,... It's nominally about stuff like imprisonment and 20th century history, but it's really all about the limits of film and the artist's ability to satirize his own extremism. And the tracking-shots are just stupid, in a good way. And it's completely insane. And so funny I was shaking and bit my chewing gum in half. It never stops. I think P.G. ran out of money --- the sequel wasn't too great --- which is a shame, he's been planning this for years. Anyway, I believe I enjoyed this film. And hey: I love Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Braveheart too.
How can I write something about this movie
as it's almost impossible to
write a review about such a film!
Get all the other Greenaway's movies, add a doze of Gillian and Lynch and
you can get an idea about what this movie is all about
I think the students that learn about what film editing means, should use
this film as the most perfect example. Multiple scenes flying across the
screen, multiple dialogs, theater-like atmosphere and a good music score,
adds up to create a unique experience!
I have to reckon that I had big expectations about this movie, after reading
the reviews, seeing the web site related to the whole story, and of course,
seeing all the other Greenaway's movies
and I was not disappointed- this
film is something that I have waited to see since long time ago: a blend of
reality, imagination and a perfect manipulation of movie
Definitely this movie should be seen in the theater, as its just too small for a normal TV-there is so much information on the screen or maybe if you have a projector at home:)
There are probably lots of `mistakes'(like a very hard to follow script, too many characters...etc) in this film, and many people would not understand a thing, but this is just normal, because there is no other movie that can be compare with this one!
IF you love art movies, and you are prepared to give some `food' to your brain, then see this movie, you won't be disappointed.
Probably, Greenaway's idea of creating this multimedia Magnus Opus would be doomed to a commercial failure, but for the real art lovers, I think the movies created for this project would set a landmark.
10 out 10
I saw this movie at the Toronto Film Festival and it was incredible. It's
story of a man and his prisons and adventures. It's also about the
twentieth century. The story is difficult to describe and hard to get
mind around but it is definitely there.
I don't see this movie as form for form's sake or as pretentious dribble.
Instead I understand it as a completely experimental and inventive form of
story-telling. For me it was completely successful.
The editing is insane. No doubt about it. The screen splits into
images and sounds are repeated, sometimes endlessly. I do understand why
some people despise this film. I just found myself as lost in its rhythm.
Tulse is an adventurer, a traveller and a dreamer. His dreams usually manage to anger those around him enough that he is oft imprisoned. But for him the world is full of prisons and part of his exploration is an attempt to understand them. The repetitive and maddening editing is, I think, the director's way of imprisoning the viewer in the world of Tulse's dreams. We aren't giving the usual linearity of Classic Hollywood editing and story. Instead we are locked in circles and spirals. The movie ends beautiful repeated image that haunts me to this day and it has left me eager for more but I have no idea how to get my fix (beyond the website TulseLuperNetwork.com which is only so so). Me and the person I went with loved the movie but I think about two thirds of the theater were pretty disappointed and a lot of them were Greenaway fans. Still give it a try and see if it connects with you
It is interesting what is going on in your brain? What are you thinking
about? What you can express and what is always be locked in you. I didn't
understand what was this film about. Such questions are ridiculous. I was
just watching the movie, and thinking about what was going on in Peter
Greenaway brain when he decided to create this project? How is he
and creating this sort of films? Where is he taking his ideas? I just
to open his head and take a look at his brain. He doesn't feel any fear
express himself. This is the main for me. This is example of real life.
Perfect, excellent, brilliant, wonderful.. None of this words can characterize this film. Tulse Luper Suitcases worth to see.
Boy, this is a tricky sonofabitch to evaluate. Tulse Luper is a recurring character in Greenaway's work, kind of a Kilgore Trout to Greenaway's Kurt Vonnegut. And the film makes multiple references to his other works, even citing Luper as their author. And Luper is attributed with having an obsession for categorization and numbering, obsessions inescapably associated with Greenaway's films. But is anything about this truly autobiographical? Is it more akin to Guy Maddin's sense of the poetic autobiography? Or is it just nonsense? Knowing Greenaway, everything in this film is done for very specific (and probably quite complex) reasons. But it's all so elusive and dense with symbolism and double meanings that it's impossible for me to decipher on a single viewing, and I would probably require the use of additional multimedia aids to truly decode it all. Although he hasn't entirely cast aside narrative, it's so shattered by formalist clutter (the literal "frames within frames" as seen in PILLOW BOOK, stylized sets, encyclopedic detail, seemingly pointless use of repetition and contradictory or complementary images) that it's difficult to say "what happens" except in vague terms. As is often the case with Greenaway, it holds almost no emotional resonance (and some of it, especially regarding the Percy character, is kinda stupid). There is no doubt that most would write it off as pretentious drivel. But I found it fascinating nonetheless. It's not the most experimental thing I've ever seen, nor the most unpredictable or surprising. But it's original enough to hold my interest, and it does so with a unique and often beautiful sense of style.
I cannot believe the weird reviews I'm reading about this film. "The
Tulse Luper Suitcase" films are masterpieces in film collage and an
examination into what a cinematic experience can be. Peter Greenaway,
since his earliest forays into film, from "The Draughtsman's Contract"
and "The Cook, The Thief..." to "8 1/2 Women", have all exhibited
Greenaway's passion for astonishing imagery and unique storytelling,
while pushing the boundaries of what is characterized as "cinema".
These films tell a tale of a man whose passion lies in creating a
cinematic event so profoundly original that one will view the film and
walk away knowing one has seen a film by "Peter Greenaway". There are
few artists in the world who can pull this off, in film or music, and I
find such artistic achievements exciting!
The "Tulse Luper" trilogy is not, sadly, an experience that everyone will glowingly praise, let alone appreciate at first. And there are those who would celebrate a film like "The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1" only for its "experimental" nature. However, this is a cinematic triumph on so many levels, and given time, the genius of this work begins to unfold. For the first-time viewer, the experience may be a bit jarring. But if you open your mind a bit, and allow the imagery and sound engineering to work together, an amazing experience awaits.
"The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1" is the type of film Greenaway probably wanted to make back in the 1980's, but the technology simply wasn't available. "Tulse Luper" is an expression of the power of the multi-media experience, and how sound and imagery can be manipulated to create an intense, memorable cinematic experience that dazzles the eyes and yet still fills the soul.
I should also place a nod to the actors involved in the project. I applaud the efforts of JJ Feild in particular. His performance is spectacular, and is an actor to watch for. Recently, I spotted him in Neil Marshall's "Centurion" -- A smaller part, but well executed. (Marshall is who I'd characterize as the John Carpenter of the 21st Century...a remarkable artist in his own right...)
"Tulse Luper" will not be an easy find, but well worth the effort. I hope for the day when all three TL films will be available in the US. Best of luck, and happy viewing!
I have three living filmmakers that I revere. Greenaway, of course, is
one of them and the most obstreperous of the bunch. I like that he has
real problems with making illustrated books and does something
substantial out of that.
His fundamental notions of the world are built on overlapping conceptual frameworks, ordered frameworks. In this, he follows the Joycean tradition of "Finnegans Wake," which layered all sorts of frameworks from Kabbalistic, Vican, mythological, even geographic sources. It was all merged according to a dream logic since we had no other template in that day and used every lexical and literary device he could muster.
Where Joyce had to make do with dream-layering, our Peter gets to use already familiar web- referenced multimedia overlays. He surely knows how to use the software to extend the art of editing into new dimensions. Wow, just on that score.
And where Joyce used obtuse frameworks with the intent of his book being a life's reading, Greenaway uses obvious overlapping frameworks: numbers, his own life and the mythology from his prior films. Some categories, like the periodic table. Oddly, he hasn't been as thorough in this film as he has in some others: Vermeer's theories of light, animals, sexual stereotypes, the written word, various frameworks of introspection and reflection. Different slices on gender.
Anyway, the point is that where Joyce was esoteric, Greenaway strives to be obvious, though manylayered, even juvenile, in his frameworks. He wants these to be so simple and grand that he can stretch them to many web sites, films, CDs, games, and (I presume) books and installations. Someone can casually enter a part of the larger work and intuit the order of the thing.
Each fan of Greenaway will have to make her own decisions on what she likes in terms of the different balances he has struck. As for me, I want a tighter integration of framework and image than he has here. This is why I value his "book" films the highest.
What does this add to what we have? Sadly, not much, except an attempt to integrate himself and some of the political sweeps of the ordinary world, which he tags to nuclear control. I've often thought that the artists themselves are dumber than the art they produce and the greater distance we have from their personalities, the better.
If you have talked to Greenaway, you'll see this in a flash. He has some good headlines, having to do with the bankruptcy of narrative in film. But beyond that, his films (some of them) soar, while his own spoken narrative crawls.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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